Our Favorite Clean Skincare for Pregnancy and Nursing

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If you’re breakout-prone or have hyper pigmentation, certain ingredients are probably prevalent in most of your skincare products. For acne, it’s salicylic acid and for discoloration its retinoids. Unfortunately, neither of these ingredients are considered safe for use during pregnancy which can leave you feeling a bit helpless (I know I did). Pregnancy is also a time when many women start making the transition from more “mainstream” products to cleaner, natural ones. During my first pregnancy, I became hyperaware that everything I was putting on my skin could potentially cross the placenta. When it was just me, I could justify using a product I loved that didn't fare as well on EWG but for my baby it was a different story.

I found the transition to clean products a little overwhelming. I hadn't heard of most of the brands, didn’t know where to shop and starting feeling a little paranoid that nothing was safe or clean. A good place to start is using the Think Dirty and Environmental Working Group apps on your phone. Not every product has been evaluated but a lot have. You’ll likely find most conventional brands contain fragrance and other ingredients that you may not want to be using during pregnancy (or ever). A word of caution though, these apps are very conservative with their findings, so if an ingredient may cause irritation for someone, it will be flagged. But just like not everyone is allergic to everything, not everyone reacts to certain ingredients that aren’t necessarily “dirty” ingredients.

So what ingredients should you avoid? Scroll down to the bottom of this post for The Never List adapted from the Beautycounter website.

So what’s a mama-to-be to do? I began to swap all my products. It was a process and a slow one because clean beauty tends to be a bit costly but eventually I had tossed all the old ones and had a good regimen in place. There are wonderful retailers out there selling clean beauty so it’s much easier to find than it was during my first pregnancy. I love Follain (basically a clean Sephora) and have found they carry the widest selection.

Everyone’s skin is so different but the products I have found that I really love have a lot of active ingredients that help to naturally turn over skin cells which helps with discoloration, blemishes, wrinkles, dullness, and basically anything else texture wise you may struggle with.

Cleansers

Osea Cleansing Mud: A really good option for blemish-prone skin. Tea Tree Oil and Vitamin A fight free radicals and have antiseptic properties for a really deep clean. I like that my skin tingles when I use it! Keep in mind naturally derived Vitamin A is different from retinoids but is still something some women like to avoid during pregnancy.

Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Cleanser: My skin looked better after one use with this! Organic cherry, lemon and aloe cleanse really well without overdrying so you’re skin has a glowing look from staying so balanced.

Juice Beauty Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser: This is the only cleanser I used for the first few months of my last pregnancy and I loved it so much! My skin was so clear and bright — it really does wonders to fade acne scarring and discoloration.

Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser: This one is pricey but worth the splurge if you’re struggling with overall texture and coloration issues. White willow bark is like a natural aspirin that has really incredible anti-inflammatory properties.

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Toners

Flower & Bone Supply Nourishing Toner: Calming rosewater combined with peppermint and rosemary essential oils provide a gentle astringent that smells so good and even helps with morning sickness. I like to spray it on throughout the day!

Indie Lee COQ-10 Toner: A really balancing toner formulated with hyaluronic acid which works as a humectant, pulling moisture into the skin. It definitely helps to fill in the look of fine lines — which I love! The COQ-10 boosts collagen making this an awesome plumping, filling tool. 

True Botanicals Clear Nutrient Toner: If you’re really battling that pregnancy/hormonal acne and need a balancing and disinfecting formula, this one is your best bet. Willow bark is a naturally derived salicylic acid that contains salacin and isn’t the same chemical format and synthetic salicylic acid. Ask your doctor if you are not sure whether you want to use it!

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Serums

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum: This is a do-it-all serum (and it better also clean my house and feed my toddler for the price!). But seriously, it’s as miraculous as everyone claims. It is a very potent formula with 22 active ingredients so not necessarily for everyone but if your skin tolerates products well and you need a skin-tervention, this may be for you.

Tata Harper Resurfacing Serum: An all around wonderful serum for smoothing rough, uneven skin and fading scars. It will leave you glory and refreshed!

True Botanicals Renew Cellular Repair Serum: If you’re struggling pigmentation and blotchiness (hello, melasma) this is a great option. It specifically inhibits melanin production which can go into overdrive during pregnancy.

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Moisturizers

Flower & Bone Supply Miracle Skin Face Oil: I like to use this in lieu of a moisturizer because it’s so light and goes into the skin really quickly. It’s really soothing and packed with fatty acids that deliver a lot of much-needed nutrients quickly.

Osea Blemish Balm: A light everyday moisturizer that helps fight breakouts with naturally antiseptic tea tree oil. It leaves you with a very clean, balanced feeling.

La Bella Figura Crema Supernova Day Cream: You really can’t go wrong with a moisturizer packed with Vitamin C. It helps with discoloration, restoring collagen production and brightening. Packed with oils that you’ve probably never heard of, these omega rich fatty acids help fill in lines and plump skin.

Juice Beauty Green Apple Brightening SPF 15 Moisturizer: If you’re dealing with discoloration, the green apple line is a really great option. This is a good everyday moisturizer that sits nicely alone or under makeup and help with evening and brightening.

Tata Harper Illuminating Moisturizer: Again, it’s pricey, but it also contains diamond dust so apparently for good reason. If you’re just feeling like you look run down and exhausted and want to feel better about your skin ASAP, this formula with hyaluronic acid plumps and hydrates for fresh, glowing skin and the diamond dust reflects like for instant highlighting. 

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Masks

Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Pregnancy: The infamous peel formulated without Vitamin A for pregnancy. Alpha hydroxy acid is a powerful exfoliator that will help cell turnover revealing clearer, less pigmented skin. I like to use this twice a week!

Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask: This delivers a chemical peel style glow without harsh chemicals. It does contain white willow bark but this is not the same as salicylic acid and I do use it during pregnancy. I use this once a week and have seen my acne scars fade and a much more even skin tone overall!

Ingredients to Avoid (Always)

Benzalkonium Chloride
A disinfectant used as a preservative and surfactant associated with severe skin, eye, and respiratory irritation and allergies. Found in: sunscreens, moisturizers.

Butylatedhydroxy Anisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene
Synthetic antioxidants used to extend shelf life. They are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors and may cause liver damage. Found in: lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics.

Coal tar hair dyes and other coal tar ingredients
A byproduct of coal processing that is a known carcinogen. It is used as a colorant and an anti-dandruff agent. Found in: hair dye, shampoo.

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)
A chelating (binding) agent added to cosmetics to improve stability. May be toxic to organs. Found in: hair color, moisturizers.

Ethanolamines (MEA/DEA/TEA)
Surfactants and pH adjuster linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption, and inhibited fetal brain development. Found in: hair dyes, mascara, foundation, fragrances, sunscreens, dry cleaning solvents, paint, pharmaceuticals.

Formaldehyde
Used as a preservative in cosmetics. A known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Present where quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), and several other preservatives are listed. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.

Hydroquinone
A skin-lightening chemical that inhibits the production of melanin and is linked to cancer, organ toxicity, and skin irritation. Found in: skin-lightening creams.

Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone
Chemical preservatives that are among the most common irritants, sensitizers, and causes of contact skin allergies. Found in: shampoo, conditioner, body wash.

Oxybenzone
Sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies, and possible hormone disruption. Found in: sunscreen, moisturizer.

Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others)
A class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which may alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies. Found in: shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation.

Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others)
A class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray, and plastic materials.

Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds)
PEGs are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. Depending on manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which are both carcinogens. Found in: creams, sunscreen, shampoo.

Retinyl palmitate and Retinol (Vitamin A)
A nutrient that may damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumors when used topically. Found in: moisturizer, anti-aging skincare.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS and SLES)
SLS and SLES are surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation, which is used to process other chemicals in order to make them less harsh. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.

Synthetic flavor or fragrance
An engineered scent or flavoring agent that may contain any combination of 3,000-plus stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed. Found in: all types of cosmetics.

Toluene
A volatile petrochemical solvent that is toxic to the immune system and can cause birth defects. Found in: nail polish.

Triclosan and Triclocarban
Antimicrobial pesticides toxic to the aquatic environment; may also impact human reproductive systems. Found in: liquid soap, soap bars, toothpaste.

Additional Ingredients to Avoid During Pregnancy

Retinoids

Hydroquinone

Salicylic Acid


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